Estate planning is about making sure your wishes are carried out. When we think about estate planning, we often envision very wealthy people who have squadrons of CPAs, lawyers and stockbrokers looking out for their finances. That’s only part of the story, though, because there are several estate planning steps that everyone should undertake.
Write a Will
If you die without a will—or intestate—state laws, and not your stated wishes, will decide who gets your assets. Even if your assets do go to the people you intended, it could cost your heirs more time and money to get their inheritance.
Consider Tax Issues
It’s said that there are no sure things in life except death and taxes, and the two also often go together. Depending on the value of the estate you are leaving and other issues, there may be planning steps you can take, such as establishing a trust or making gifts while you’re still around, that can help lower the taxes your heirs will pay on their inheritance.
Create a Durable Power of Attorney
These documents designate someone to manage your financial, legal or business affairs in case you are incapacitated.
Address Medical Decision Making
A living will can establish how you would like your medical care to be handled in case you are unable to speak for yourself. A medical power of attorney names someone to make sure your wishes are followed.
Fill Out and Regularly Update Your Beneficiary Forms
When you sign up for life insurance or create a retirement account, you are asked to name beneficiaries who would inherit your money if you die. After an important life change—such as marriage, birth of a child or divorce—consider whether you need to update your beneficiaries.